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Democratic voters in Kentucky, Republican voters in California, and Green Party supporters across the USA have one thing in common: their votes are almost certain to have no impact on the outcome of the American Presidential election.  This is because of our atrocious Electoral College method of electing the President.  

Vote swapping (or vote pairing) websites in other countries such as Canada offer these disenfranchised voters some hope of political power. According to the US courts, vote swapping or vote pairing is legal. Lawsuits were filed in 2000 to test this, and vote swap sites were approved as a form of free-speech.

Here is how vote swapping can work:

A Democratic (Barack Obama) voter in Kentucky could register at such a site, and find a Green party (Jill Stein) supporter living in Colorado who is willing to vote Democratic in exchange for a Green vote in Kentucky.  Since Obama will certainly lose Kentucky anyway, the Democrat loses nothing.  Since Jill Stein will certainly lose Colorado, the Green voter loses nothing.

A Republican voter in California agrees to vote for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, former Governor of New Mexico.  In return, a Libertarian in Colorado agrees to vote for Mitt Romney.  

Both of the above scenarios allow the disenfranchised non-swing state voters to participate in swing states, which are the only states where presidential campaign votes matter in our fatally flawed electoral college system.

An argument can be made that the Democrats and Republicans are getting more from this trade than the Greens or the Libertarians.  After all, these swaps still mean that the Greens and Libertarians will not win any electoral college votes.  But I would argue that a Green also gains by casting a vote against the more conservative candidate in a swing state, while knowing that they are simultaneously casting a vote for their Green candidate in another state.  A Libertarian gains by casting a vote against the more liberal candidate in a swing state, while knowing that they are simultaneously casting a vote for their Libertarian candidate in another state.

Now a vote swap is not like a market exchange, as it is not legally binding or enforceable.  A better long term solution is to implement IRV, or Instant Runoff Voting (see links below.) Until that can be done, I'm calling on an IT web geek to develop a VotePair2012 website.  The site should be non-partisan, so that any voter - regardless of party or ideology - who is disenfranchised by our horrid electoral college system can seek a bit of silver lining.

More info:

Why the electoral college sucks:

Why we need IRV or Instant Runoff Voting:

According to the US courts, vote swapping or vote pairing is legal:

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Comment Preferences

  •  Link please. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    According to the US courts, vote swapping or vote pairing is legal.

    Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

    by Horace Boothroyd III on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 07:08:00 PM PDT

  •  Bad idea in 2000 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    bad idea in 2012.

    "Do what you can with what you have where you are." - Teddy Roosevelt

    by Andrew C White on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 07:12:31 PM PDT

  •  Because you have to trust the other person (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cedwyn, MKSinSA

    or else you're just a sucker.

    If I were ever to 'vote pair', it would have to be with a close friend that I trusted implicitly.

    •  Remember the folks vote-pairing have (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ...nothing to lose.  They are in safe states, or they are disgruntled with the mainstream candidates, etc.  If there is a slight chance that the bargain is kept, that may mean more to them than casting a vote they consider to be worthless at best or immoral at worst.

      •  It affects 'legitimacy'. (0+ / 0-)

        There's already speculation that President Obama might end up like one of the Bush elections, in which he won the electoral college, but lost the popular vote.  That leads to ever more airwave time spent on ranting about how he's not 'legitimate', which adds to the pressure on idiot Republican Congressman to spend all their time blocking anything he does.

        Sure, if you absolutely can trust the other person to 'pair', then it doesn't affect overall totals.  Otherwise you're just shrinking the total Dem vote.

  •  Wikipedia has some good info about votepair risks (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, MKSinSA, Brainwrap
    The concern often gets raised on whether vote pairing can be used by opposing parties to manipulate an election or sabotage a candidate. However, in practice, such ideas of manipulation turn out to be impractical and self defeating.
    For an example, suppose that in the 2004 election the former Republican Pat Buchanan had again run for President under the Reform Party (as he did in the 2000 election). Suppose that supporters of the 2004 Republican candidate, George W. Bush, had set up vote pairing web sites so that Buchanan supporters from swing states in the US (such as Ohio, where the Democrats and Republicans were in a close race) would get matched with Bush supporters in solidly Democrat states (such as Massachusetts). This was not actually done of course (since Buchanan did not run in 2004), but suppose that Republican supporters of George W. Bush had gotten concerned that Democratic supporters of John Kerry would try to sabotage these web sites or manipulate the election by posing as either Bush or Buchanan supporters. However, if such Democrats had done so, all they could do is pose as George W. Bush supporters in solidly Democratic states or as Buchanan supporters in swing states. In the former situation (Democrats posing as Bush supporters in solidly Democrat states such as Massachusetts), all they could do is trick Buchanan supporters in swing states to cast their vote for Bush—which would only hurt the Democratic candidate, John Kerry. Similarly, in the latter situation (Democrats posing as |Buchanan supporters in swing states), all they could do is trick Bush supporters in solidly Democrat states to vote for Buchanan—which wouldn't change the election since the Democrat candidate, John Kerry, would very likely carry those states anyway.
    One can work through this same issue in the opposite political direction—where it actually was a concern of Democrats in the 2004 election. In the 2004 presidential election, matched Democratic Party supporters of John Kerry in staunchly Republican states with third-party supporters in swing states (including Ralph Nader supporters, Libertarian Party supporters of Michael Badnarik, or Green Party supporters of David Cobb). A common question was whether Republican supporters of George W. Bush could manipulate the election by posing as John Kerry supporters or as third-party supporters. However, if such people had posed as third-party supporters in swing states, all they could do is trick John Kerry supporters in staunchly Republican states to vote for a third-party candidate—which wouldn't change the outcome of the election (since George W. Bush would win those states anyway). Similarly if such people had posed as John Kerry supporters in staunchly Republican states, all they could do is trick third-party supporters in swing states to vote for John Kerry--which would have politically hurt George W. Bush, not helped him.
    One can similarly think through the possibilities of say a left third-party supporter in a swing state trying to trick Democrats in red states into voting for third parties. In an extreme case, say a Ralph Nader supporter in Florida in 2004 had used different email addresses and names to register 10 different times with and then tried to manipulate 10 different Democrats in Texas to all vote for Nader, while casting his own ballot in Florida not for John Kerry but for Nader as well. This is perhaps the point where the process is the most vulnerable to mistrust. However, the outcome in Texas would still have gone unchanged—all of the Texas electoral votes would have still gone to Bush. The outcome in Florida would have been more vulnerable. Arguably though, the Nader "supporter" in Florida would have done more to hurt third parties than help them. If he told anyone he had done this, he might have started a rumor that third-party supporters can't be trusted, driving Democrats in red states away from and lowering the total votes third parties might get. Consequently the best strategy for a third-party supporter to do in a swing state is to just enter into a vote pair honestly. They can then tell others about how they had done so in order to spread understanding of vote pairing. A similar reasoning would apply to Democrats in nonswing states not following through on a vote pair agreement, or to Republicans and supporters of politically right third parties not following through on vote pairs.
  •  It's a terrible idea for the same reason... (0+ / 0-)

    ...that "Operation Hilarity" (or, as Limbaugh called it in 2008, "Operation Chaos") is a terrible idea:

    Be Careful What You Wish For.

    Yes, the Electoral College system stinks, and I'm all for the National Popular Votemovement, which is actually gaining steam; it's up to 132 EV's worth of states passing the law, about half of what's needed for it to be implemented.

    HOWEVER, anything short of that is fucking around with your vote for, at best, a brief feeling of smugness, or, at worst, actually helping Mitt Romney win the Presidency.

    Yes, it's extremely unlikely that Oklahoma is gonna go Blue or that Vermont is gonna go red. But if history has taught us anything, it's that NOTHING is certain.

    If you had told me on Sept. 12, 2001 that the next President of the United States was gonna be not just a black Democrat, but one who'd only held statewide office for 4 years and who had a Muslim-sounding name, I'd have said you were insane.
    If you had further told me that not only would he win, but he'd do so by beating a 2nd-term Senator from New York who also happened to be the wife of a very popular 2-term former U.S. President, I'd have called you delusional.

    If you had told me that he would then go on to beat a genuine war hero who was also a 4-term U.S. Senator who was considered by most of the public (rightly or wrongly) to be a "moderate" with "reasonable views" who "wasn't afraid to buck his party when it was the right thing for the country" etc etc, I'd have laughed.

    And, if you'd further told me that he'd not just win, but would gain more votes than any other candidate in the history of the United States, I'd have sworn you were on medication.

  •  No, thanks (0+ / 0-)

    If you live in a red state, just knuckle down and swing all the voters you can.  It would be nice to have IRV, but we don't have it yet.  Until we do, we'll just have to work harder to get the Democratic Party message to as many people as we can, and get out the vote.

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